1. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Thoughts on "grounded" fantasy

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Kalisto, Dec 13, 2020.

    I write some pretty grounded fantasy novels. I was wondering what other people thought about having more grounded fantasy. Do you prefer majestic, almost dream like worlds or more things rooted in reality.
     
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  2. Night Herald

    Night Herald Malfunctioning clockwork person Supporter Contributor

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    Like Low Fantasy contra High Fantasy, you mean?

    I like both, depending on what I'm in the mood for. A lot comes down to execution. I usually prefer things to be fairly grounded, or "realistic", if you will. I like my fantasy worlds and the people in them to feel like they could really exist. I am a big fan of the otherworldly and bizarre, but I want it built on a sturdy foundation of realism (Gormenghast, Books of Babel) or a strong comedic sensibility (Discworld).

    On the writing side of things I lean more towards outrageous, flighty stuff. It's fun to indulge your creativity like that. But even then I like to keep a core of mundanity so the extravagant bits pop better.

    The short, sweet answer is that I prefer things to be fairly middle-of-the-road: not too fantastical, but strange enough to be interesting.
     
  3. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like low grade fantasy - The Mouse and the Motorcycle type fantasy. Everything was real except for a talking mouse and his ability to ride a toy motorbike going puh-ba-ba-ba.
     
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  4. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Hey, I actually liked the explanation they give as to why the boy and Ralph can talk to each other and weren't surprised that they could. The author just said they shared a love for motorcycles and left it at that. It was perfect.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I know I am not (usually) a fan of 'majestic, dreamed-up worlds,' unless I can quickly find my feet there. Whatever the 'world' is like, I want it to seem real to me. I also need to identify with the characters. I can put up with a certain amount of distance between me and characters, if the environment is novel enough to get me intrigued. But sooner or later—preferably sooner—I need to 'be there.' Otherwise, I lose interest.

    One of the characteristics of Robert E Howard's Conan stories or Kull stories ...pulp fantasy fiction extraordinare ...was his ability to IMMEDIATELY fix the reader in the world of his story. I think he did this because his characters usually entered the scene doing or experiencing something fairly visceral. They weren't just 'described' against a fantastical background. They were in it. Getting cold, wet, hungry, fed up. They were experiencing something, and his writing style got me, the reader, to experience it as well. And I got hooked.
     
  6. Sven Ylford

    Sven Ylford New Member

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    I prefer something that is more dense with imagination - whether it is something "high" like Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive or something "low" like China Mieville's the City & the City. As long the author is doing something imaginative - and doing it well - I'll be happy regardless of where it falls on the "high/low" scale.
     
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  7. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    In a 'low' fantasy nearly everything could happen in real life
    In a 'high' fantasy perhaps very little could happen in real life

    But this obscures that both are fiction - and what matters in fiction is that it didn't happen in real life
    The One Ring wasn't forged. Hari Seldon didn't invent psychohistory. Thornfield Hall didn't burn down.

    These things derive their truth from a mystery at the centre of human language - which I'll try to express as "meaning is derived from the story of the event not the event-in-itself"

    True stories are a sub-genre of fiction. The real world is only able to be perceived through the same mind's-eye as fantasy. The real world is a hologram of literature. There is no ground to ground fiction in - it's fiction all the way down. Descartes is because he thinks - and he thinks stories.

    But returning to fantasy stories, they must be as grounded as the ground is, and as true as the physical desk they are written on.
    "Cinderella went to the ball" must be as true as "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction". If it isn't that true, don't write that Cinderella went to the ball.

    Cinderella can't be true in relation to middle-European kingdoms, or the rituals for summoning fairy godmothers. But I'd suggest it's kept because it encapsulates eternal truths about the human character within its treatment of the characters in the story. If a story's characters are grounded in humanity, it shouldn't matter if the fantasy elements are more plausible or less plausible. High fantasy might have the advantage that the characters are the only thing the reader is really paying any attention to. Low fantasy has less clutter distracting the writer from the characters. And if someone finds they can't write characters but quite likes rattling on about Elf-Kingdoms and what sorts of flags everybody has... then I'd say they should stick to non-fiction.
     
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  8. Travalgar

    Travalgar Active Member

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    When I'm reading fantasy, I want to experience things I don't find in the real world. Escapism is one of the genre's main offering. High fantasy offers more on the plate in this manner compared to those more grounded in reality. There's just a lot more ways a story could go to if real-world laws of nature didn't constraint the writer.

    Although I admit this meant a story full of fantastical elements could go wrong in more ways, as well. Grounded fantasies, on the other hand, often had to rely on more robust storylining to make up for the lack of fancy settings and ingredients.

    Regardless of where their story lies in the high-low fantasy spectrum, a writer still need means to plant their characters' (and the readers') feet on the ground; otherwise, it just wouldn't be enjoyable.
     
  9. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    In my main WIP at the moment, it reads something more akin to historical fiction in the main story. But I have developed a magic system with limitations that does exist inside the universe. I limited it by looking at martial arts and Shaolin monks in particular. Most of their ability to do crazy stunts that would cause immense pain to normal people is by a process where they abuse their bodies intentionally to kill off nerves so they no longer feel pain in certain areas of the body. I copied this so novice mages can pass out from trying to make sparks and it takes a long time and work for a master mage or archmage to build up a tolerance for harder spells. You also have to be born with an innate magical ability so, with all this combined, mages are not common, highly sought after by royal courts and are limited in their power. It makes them a plot device without them being so powerful that they are the plot.
     
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  10. Brosephus

    Brosephus Member

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    Yes.

    It entirely depends on the tone of the story you are going for and the inner conflicts you want your characters to experience. Are you writing a grounded political drama? A supernatural mystery? A psychological thriller? A detail-oriented heist story? In all cases the logical outcome of magic and its place in the world must be considered.

    I'm about to describe trends the types of magic I have seen from my own limited experience, so take what I write next with a heavy grain of salt.

    Worlds where magic is common often feature hard magic systems where the rules of a given system of magic is clearly defined. Many members of the main cast wield some form of magic or another. In some ways these stories bear resemblance to science fiction--how do the characters this particular set of rules in a clever way (or to solve a given problem)?

    Low magic settings allows your character to experience some of the mystique magic carries in the real world. Because magic is rare, the characters can more easily experience the shock of seeing something outside of their ordinary lives. This kind of story often uses soft magic to create a surreal, hazy quality. It's less about examining the clever ways in characters can use the strict rules of a magic system and more about the emotional reaction those in the story have to some irrational, supernatural force outside of themselves. They may feature characters who are skilled at magic, but they aren't usually the protagonist.

    I tend to enjoy stories where magic is a little more surreal and loose, but that is my own taste and both types are can make for an emotionally resonant story. Sanderson's writings on magic are a good place to start if you want to know more.
     
  11. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

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    Grounded, probably. Though that means a few different things to different people.

    I like common problems in a fantastic setting, simple things that have room to grow intricate and hopefully inspire the introspective side of the reader. Instead of The Chosen One™, where one primary conflict is a binary rejection/acceptance of destiny (who would have thought something so ubiquitously human as the hero's journey™ would be so hard to relate to), I prefer that a character decides the goal and path for himself, soldiering on through many permutations of doubt. As for the setting, I'm chained to contrast. For every green-skinned barbarian, there needs to be a white-tail deer.
     
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  12. Ziggy.

    Ziggy. Active Member

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    To me I find grounded fantasy more appealing. I think that stretching the genre to encompass a reality that is like our own gives a greater contrast. Maybe because I love the air of mystery in reality, of urban legends, ghosts, ghouls, and the natural beauty within nature. I find it's easier to fit into a world that begins somewhat grounded and slowly separates and correlates.

    I have an idea for a fantasy/horror romance in which the world is like ours but once the veil slips, we see a world beyond the mundane while still being a part of the main one. I just don't enjoy high scale fantasy as much.
     
  13. Jlivy3

    Jlivy3 Member

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    I'm two books into the the old Black Company series by Glen Cook. (Mercenary company, but they have a few funny cranky wizards on their side. They keep getting hired by god like entities. Gritty, but there are epic battles with armies and magic...and flying carpets.) I like it quite a bit. Before that I devoured Joe Abercrombie's first book in the First Law series, The Blade Itself. Even more gritty, but again there's a god like entity and enough magic flying around to make it interesting. The empire and world are all very convincingly rendered. I guess that's low or grounded fantasy. So right now that's my jam, but I'll take anything that's well done.

    Weirdly, though I never saw the TV series, I really liked Gaiman's novelization of Neverwhere. One of my favorite realizations of the whole "there's another world behind our own" thing. I also like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, where it's explained that when normal people see something fantastical happening in our world, they just block it out since their minds can't grasp it.

    So I'm no help. I like it all. My favorite color is plaid.
     
  14. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    I like fantasy, but mostly when it is just historical fiction, so I suppose I would prefer it grounded. I'm more into the "fantasy of manners' corner of things.
     
  15. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Ah, First Law.

    Is it good? Because I have the book in my amazon kindle and I don't have the time to read it.
     
  16. Mogador

    Mogador Senior Member

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    Dunsany is about as grounded as a kite and all the better for it. Its a dream where a traveller from Ireland can go on a jaunt and end up floating down the River Yann*, or a Londoner pop into a shop and with minimal discombobulation emerge in a parallel country.

    For something longer that a short story the unmoored dreamscape becomes hellish. See The Unconsoled, which is more or less unreable (but in a good way). But I have fantasies about having tiny slithers of space in my spare time to read fantasy, so dreamy short story fantasy is already plugging those fantasies before I've even got to the fantasy. Just fancy.

    -------
    * I strongly encourage a journey down the River Yann.
     
  17. Jlivy3

    Jlivy3 Member

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    Well I lost sleep since I couldn't put it down. Can't wait to read the rest. I found it more entertaining than Game of Thrones. Not as dark, some comic relief, not as many factions to keep track of. But it is just the first book.
     

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